Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to Know
by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published April 2nd 2019 by St. Martin's Press
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance

Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way - she just can't read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others.
Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn't seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she's not sure he'll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.

Annika Rose likes being alone.
Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all.

4.5 Stars
Ten years does little to extinguish the flame that burns between Annika Rose and Jonathan. Seeing each other for the first time after such a large space of time is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket at the first sight of winter, it's comfortable, but it also brings back the painful hurt each was left with at the end of their youthful relationship. Annika still prefers her solitude and the quiet, but Jonathan reminds her of the comfort of a companion, the trust, and the difficulties that sometimes come with dating when one doesn't understand social cues quite as well as others. She's not sure he'll want to see her again, not after the past, but she wants to see him again and this time, she's willing to do the work.

For those who haven't read On The Island, Tracey Garvis Graves' debut novel, let me tell you about how even years after reading it is unforgettable. I know the characters, I know their feelings, I think of them when people ask for specific types of stories, I think of them like old friends. Sure, she's published others since then, but that book just had that memorable quality to it. When I read the blurb for The Girl He Used to Know I felt that rush of excitement, that same feeling of butterflies before getting on a roller coaster, it was an immediate feeling of I must read this book. The blurb doesn't give much away, but the line, "She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way - she just can't read people." told me this would be a unique read and I wasn't wrong. I was wrapped up in this story for several hours, I couldn't focus on anything without thinking about what I had left to discover on the pages. It was an all consuming read that left me smiling through my tears.

Annika Rose is your typical female main character, she's gorgeous, she's self sufficient, she's loved and lost, but she also struggles quite a lot with social interaction. What others call weird or avoid her for is really her high functioning autism and the tools she has learned to use to cope with her inability to understand facial expressions, social cues, and body language. When Jonathan first sees her he sees her beauty and soon after her brain and, despite the difficulties he has in just befriending her, he sets his sights on dating her. It isn't easy though, Annika is used to others "babysitting" her and is unprepared for what is required of her on date nights or even in Chess Club as she moves from occasional member to a competitive teammate. She frequently runs away to the safety of her room, is often unaware or almost too aware of the looks and comments made about her, and without a diagnosis has no tools to help her in the fast-paced college atmosphere. Tracey Garvis Graves really captured the misconception many held, and may still hold, about people with autism, I felt like I really was Annika as she battled the stigma of being dumb or slow. Tracey Garvis Graves also really highlights the uniqueness of high functioning autism, with Annika being so beautiful, but also easy prey for those who recognize she is unable to understand their intention. I am so thankful this girl has a roommate and best friend that loves her and helps her and never sees her as a burden, it's absolutely one of my favorite secondary relationships I've ever read.

The romance aspect of this story is just beautiful and so unique, the novel flashes back between 1991 while the two are in college dating and 2001, ten years later, with many more life experiences behind them. These two love so deeply, when they fall they fall hard, but college-aged Annika isn't prepared to cope with adulthood and the affects of choices and adult Annika has relied so much on her coping mechanisms that starting fresh with Jonathan sounds much better that dealing with the past. There is significant character growth in the ten year gap and while I would have loved to read it all I think we get just the right amount of highlights to understand where life took the two. Each are hardened a bit by their experiences, yet the spark between them still flickers innocently like it once did.

I so loved Jonathan and his patience, understanding, and love of Annika. He puts other's expectations behind him and loves her fiercely, even when he doesn't know what to do to be there for her. I also loved how he learned to ask things of her, to explain the love, commitment, and trust he needs to make the relationship work. I think it is important to highlight that Annika doesn't know how a relationship should work, being a partner to her rather than being a caretaker is Jonathan's goal and I think the dialogue we get in this novel as they explore dating again is incredible. It felt realistic and accurate and really made me think. The two face challenges, massive challenges many of us would never dream of facing, and yet they continue to fight for themselves and for each other. My only complaint is the lack of an epilogue, while I could have read the story of these two forever I really think an ending that gives readers a reprieve from the tears would have been amazing.

Told from Annika and Jonathan's alternating perspectives, The Girl He Used to Know captures the essence of first love and the mark it leaves on you so perfectly to me. It's the story of the underdog, a romance with depth that left me in tears, it's so beautiful and yet so heart wrenching, and begging for more. Tracey Garvis Graves' The Girl He Used to Know will have a spot on my favorites shelf forever.
About the Author
Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into twenty-nine languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, and White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next book.

Tracey loves to interact with her readers and can be found on Facebook and Twitter. You may also visit her website at

Post a Comment

© Carlene Inspired. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.